Scotland’s drug strategy to be refreshed

Scotland’s drug strategy is to be “refreshed” as Scotland continues to face significant challenges including rising numbers of drug-related deaths. Work is also being done to look at ways to encourage older people with a drug problem into addiction services.

The moves were announced by Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell at the ‘Drug Policy Through a Health Lens’ conference in Glasgow on the 26th of July and come as a report revealed rising inequality in the 1980s put men from Scotlands poorer areas who were born between 1960 and 1980 at increased risk of drug overdose deaths.

The latest figures for drug-related deaths is an all-time record of 706 for 2015. Released last August, the number was up on 613 in 2014 and 527 in 2013, with the median age of those who died rising to 41 years old in 2015, up from around 30 to 36 in the previous decade. Figures for 2016 are due to be published on the 15th of August by the National Records of Scotland.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell has asked for those involved in treatment services and the wider field to come forward with their views on how changes can be made to the 2008 Road to Recovery strategy.

Meanwhile, a joint initiative between the Scottish Government and Scottish Drugs Forum will examine ways to help services improve the way they engage with older people with a drug problem, encourage and inspire them to benefit from and maintain their treatment.

Aileen Campbell said: “I’m proud of what the Road to Recovery strategy has achieved. In Scotland, drug-taking in the general adult population is falling and drug-taking levels among young people remain low.

“However, the nature of Scotland’s drug problem is changing and we need to adapt services to meet the needs of those most at risk, who we know face complex and wide-ranging social and medical issues.

David Liddell, Scottish Drugs Forum CEO, said: “Scottish Drugs Forum welcomes the Scottish Government’s plan to refresh the Road to Recovery. It has been nearly ten years since the strategy was launched and much has changed since then, although the scale of the drug problem has remained unaltered.

“In particular, we have seen a tragic rise in fatal drug overdose deaths, which show no sign of reducing.  Other countries have achieved a reduction in overdose deaths by ensuring that people are appropriately retained in high-quality treatment and we must aspire to do the same.

“We are now facing a situation where the majority of those seeking help for a drug problem will be older, over 35, and will be more vulnerable due to multiple health issues.  Our research has shown that this most vulnerable group are not held well in services at present – they are moving in and out of treatment –  and all of us must work harder to change this if we are to save lives and create more opportunities for recovery. This will also include exploring approaches, well-evidenced internationally but new for Scotland, such as drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment.”

The Minister stated that there will be details of a consultation process on the new strategy published in the near future: “In setting out our plans to refresh the existing strategy, I’m encouraging everyone involved in treatment services to think about how they can make changes at a local level.

“There is also a collective need to challenge the stigma of addiction and build services based on respect and dignity as well as clinical need. I look forward to hearing views from across the sector in the coming months as we work together to tackle the evolving and complex needs of those who suffer from problem drug misuse.”

Scottish Drugs Forum recently published two new reports which focus on the challenges faced by older people with a drug problem which can be accessed here.